Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Prayer of Presence

Being in the moment and present to whatever is going on within and without is my favourite form of prayer. I've noticed that when I think I need comforting, the most effective way to achieve that is not by trying to talk myself into or out of things but rather getting still and allowing the thoughts that are creating the discomfort to drift off into the oblivion from whence they came. Noticing the deep silence that is left brings me to a still point which is what I would call the 'peace that passes understanding'.

There's a big difference between mental activity that is trying to 'get' something or somewhere and the very simple and spontaneous arising of being. In this place there is no right or wrong or good or bad, there is what is, simple, beautiful and perfect no matter what is 'happening'. The moment I shift into thinking about what is happening the peace tends to recede and the activity of mind takes over offering all manner of opinion and judgment about what is, which is in itself neither good nor bad; it is simply not so peaceful anymore.

Our nature is a thoughtful one and so to expect ourselves not to think about stuff is pretty unreasonable really. For me it is sufficient to be able to cut off the chatter at any given moment and be fully present beyond thought, beyond feeling, beyond 'me' which I achieve by going through these things rather than trying to avoid them.

Sounds so simple doesn't it? It is rather, but it isn't always easy, especially when there are strong emotions involved. Add to that the human tendency of trying to get away from anything uncomfortable and you find it is really quite a challenge. Bottom line is that it is a practice, like any other; playing the piano, becoming proficient at a sport, learning a new skill of any kind really. It takes practice, practice, practice, and it's worth it to be able to see beyond the busy-ness of the mind to the peace and beauty of the moment.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Good Grief

In my work as a celebrant and a coach one of the experiences I work with a lot is grief. It is one of those things that most of us must experience in one way or another many times in our life. For many grief is a very challenging experience indeed. I was in such deep denial of it after I lost my business in the mid 80's that I nearly drank my life away.

We all experience grief differently even though there are a number of common experiences involved as well. Deep sadness, loss of meaning and purpose in life and being surprised by tears at the most unexpected times are some of those common experiences. There is often denial and anger as well as a fear and doubt and every kind of emotion.

The important thing about grief is that it is actually a portal of sorts into a new reality for the one who is grieving. Any kind of change or loss in life can and does trigger grief to some degree. Most of us became quite adept at ignoring it or pushing it down but it has a way of making itself known to us in some way or other as we travel through life. I know when I finally stepped into the grief after my major loss in the 80's I was also stepping into all the unexpressed grief I had been storing up for a lifetime. This is not an unusual experience for many people either. Personally, I was so grateful when I was finally able to acknowledge the grief and feel the depth of it because it opened the door to making some very important and life affirming changes.

I've experienced similar shifts and openings several times in my life since then as changes and losses have occurred as they will for us all. I've learned to embrace grief and move through it with grace and the gifts have continued to show up as well. When we resist grief and sadness, we set up a barrier to keep ourselves 'safe' from uncomfortable feelings but the problem with these barriers is that they also keep the good stuff out as well. A barrier is a barrier after all. When we end the resistance and allow our vulnerability there a no barriers anymore and so life can flow freely once again.

As our friends the Borg remind us 'Resistance is futile' (for all my Trekkie friends). Why not move with the flow instead of pushing the river? Life really is a beautiful thing as we merrily float down that stream.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Transformational Experiences

These past few weeks have been interesting for me and for many people I know. There has been a lot of darkness in the forms of sadness, depression, despair, illness and such. As difficult as these experience may be at the time, I find that I usually emerge from them with a renewed sense of clarity and aliveness. It's like dipping the bucket of life into a well, for a while you can't see anything and the journey both downward and upward seem endless but they are not. This process is important in the ongoing evolution of life it seems and so the more we learn to observe it and move with it, the less painful it tends to be.

After the darkness the dawn however and I am in a dawn experience once again. At Sunday's gathering we did two things that have had a profound impact on me, I can't speak for anyone else here. In the first process we did a burning ritual where we silently meditated on what belief/pattern we were being called to release then we wrote it on a slip of paper and burned it. I've done this kind of ritual many times in my years in ministry but never have I been so very present to the process. Watching the paper burn and turn to ash, releasing the smoky essence of the idea that was symbolically being transformed was very powerful and the process didn't end there. In my quiet time that evening and the next morning as I focused on my solar plexus I was suddenly envisioning the outer layers of every cell in my body turning to smoke and drifting off. It was an amazingly cleansing and freeing experience.

The second part of the Sunday morning ritual was about opening to the idea that I am to focus on now. As always, what came up wasn't what I expected. I love that. It's such a great reminder that when I let go of what I think is going to happen there is usually something even better that shows up. Anyway, there was more to the process and it was all quite wonderful. The real benefit however is not what happens in the workshop but rather the ongoing effects of a process. After a day or so of seeing the old fearful ideas burning away in my cells, the new focus arose in awareness. In my quiet time last night I was present to it in my body and just breathed with it and rested in it. This morning I ran it through the chakras, similar to something I had learned many years ago but hadn't done for a long time. I was inspired by a participant of the Sunday morning gathering who is currently learning about chakras through another group. I used to work a lot with chakras so it reminded me about the process of focusing on each chakra with the idea I am working with. I love the process and I can feel things shifting in my body. It will be interesting to see how it affects the way I move through life these days. Yet another grand experiment! I love it.

I think I'll offer the burning bowl and focusing process again on the 20th. There's so much richness in it.